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Octopus vision test could help pinpoint patients at risk of AMD

UK scientists have developed technology that could screen patients for low macular pigment levels

UK scientists are developing technology that could be used by optometrists to screen for patients with low macular pigment levels.

A new study, which was published in Journal of Experimental Biology, describes using technology to test how well a colour blind octopus can detect polarised light.

The research team found that octopuses have the most sensitive polarisation vision system of any animal tested to date.

Subsequent research led to a method of testing macular pigment levels – which can be linked to an individual’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration later in life.

Professor Shelby Temple, who holds an honorary position at the University of Bristol and the University of Aston, highlighted that humans can perceive polarisation because of macular pigments in the eyes.

“By inventing a method to measure polarisation vision in octopuses, we were able to use the core technology to develop a novel ophthalmic device that can quickly and easily screen people for low macular pigments, a strong risk factor for increased susceptibility to macular degeneration,” he said.

Temple is developing the technology through his start-up company Azul Optics.

"We are all living longer and expecting to do more in our older age, so I hope this serendipitous invention will help empower people to do more to look after our eyes, so they don't suffer from this devastating disease,” he said.